Four out of five dancers will suffer a severe injury during the course of their dancing career—and two out of those four will never fully recover, reports CNN World.
Physiotherapy for recovering dancers is well entrenched, and dancers benefit from few of the scientific breakthroughs that have so improved the safety record of their athletic counterparts on the sports field.
Patrick Rump, a 33-year-old former karate champion from Germany, is fighting to change all that. His work rehabilitating leading dancers is featured in a short documentary, Patrick Rump: Sports Scientist, first screened at the Prix de Lausanne ballet competition in February.
The Rump approach is to consider the whole picture—compiling data to track everything: from what the dancer eats and how much weight they can lift, to the angle of their leg as they glide through the air. In practice, this means watching each dancer intimately and building a computer profile of their performance based on multitude of different measures. Rump takes this visual micro-analysis and adds dietary guidance, strength and stamina-building weight training, and scheduled recovery periods, all of which he imported from his knowledge of the world of sport.
His methods have faced resistance from some in the ballet world. He’s used to hearing the complaint from ballet company directors that “they are sports and we are art, and it doesn’t go together.” And it has been harder still to break the ingrained code of silence that exists among dancers, where fierce competition ensures they often conceal injury or weakness for fear of missing out on the best roles.
Yet when star ballerina Alina Cojocaru suffered a serious injury, her recovery regime—guided by Rump—helped her recover from surgery and address underlying issues so that she defied doctors’ predictions and returned to the stage within six months. “To be on stage and not feel pain . . . it’s a wonderful, wonderful miracle,” Cojocaru says.
To see the full story, visit http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/05/world/meet-the-ballet-doctor-dance/.
“Pennsylvania Ballet at 50,” an exhibition celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary, is on view at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, through March 30, reported The Dance Journal. The free exhibit is open to the public.
“Pennsylvania Ballet has an incredibly rich history,” artistic director Roy Kaiser says. “We are honored the Free Library has given us this platform to share our story with our fellow Philadelphians.”
Pennsylvania Ballet’s 50-year history is displayed in the Parkway Central’s first floor West Gallery through the use of stunning photos, vintage posters, costumes, performance programs, and historic artifacts, many items on view for the first time. The exhibition also features highlights from the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2013, including the 50th Anniversary Gala and the first annual Nutcracker Market craft and gift fair, plus a video tribute created by Pennsylvania Ballet photographer/videographer Alexander Iziliaev, a former principal dancer for the company.
To design the exhibition, Pennsylvania Ballet has partnered with graphic design students from Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, led by professor and program director Jody Graff. Drexel students also designed “Behind the Scenes of The Nutcracker,” which ran this past winter at the Philadelphia History Museum.
George Mason University will host the American College Dance Association Mid-Atlantic Conference this weekend at its Fairfax, Virginia, campus.
Northern Virginia Magazine reported that more than 560 dancers and dance faculty representing 20 different universities will attend the March 8 to 11 conference. Participating dancers will be taking classes in a variety of dance forms such as world dances, ballet, and contemporary, and present dance pieces in a series of adjudicated and informal concerts.
Public events will include a panel titled “Imagine . . . a Life in Dance” featuring Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, 2013 MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham, and other dance industry professionals on March 9; a performance by the Joffrey Ballet of Body and Soul on March 8; and a gala performance on March 11.
For more information, visit https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/tab1.aspx?EventID=1259417.
To see the original story, visit http://www.northernvirginiamag.com/buzz-bin/2014/02/27/gmu-to-host-american-college-dance-association-mid-atlantic-conference/.
World War II was a perilous time for Britain, and yet, the years of grinding conflict offered British ballet dancers a chance to show their mettle and become entwined with the cultural fabric of the nation, reported the Daily Mail.
As David Bintley, Royal Birmingham Ballet director, explains in the new BBC4 documentary Dancing in the Blitz: How World War 2 Made British Ballet, the war years proved to be “the making of British ballet.”
The driving force behind the scheme to turn what had once been a largely foreign art form into something quintessentially British was Ninette de Valois, who had set up the Vic-Wells Company and put together a roster of talent that included dancers Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann, and choreographer Frederick Ashton, by the mid ’30s. But it wasn’t until war broke out in 1939 that de Valois’ fledgling ballet company truly came into its own—transforming the art from a niche pursuit for the posh into an everyman pleasure in the process.
“I think for highbrow audiences, ballet was well established,” says Royal Ballet School’s Anna Meadmore. “But for the man in the street, it was still very much peripheral, exotic, something they wouldn’t consider going to themselves.”
When war broke out on September 3, 1939, de Valois decided to send her company (by now renamed after the Sadler’s Wells Theatre where they were based) on tour. “Everything changed
with the outbreak of war,” says ballet historian Jane Pritchard. “Obviously, the companies immediately stopped performing, but that was only for a brief period because it was quickly realized that people needed entertainment more than ever during wartime.”
With many of the male dancers (and choreographer Ashton) conscripted, the repertoire was reworked to omit male dancers. The company toured the length and breadth of Britain right until the end of the war, creating many new fans in the process.
To see the full story, visit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2573095/Incredible-story-British-ballets-World-War-II-roots-revealed.html.
By David Arce
The most basic rule in ballet is that whenever the foot leaves the floor it must point immediately and completely. The dancer peels the foot off the floor starting from the heel, then the ball, and finally the toes. Although this applies to everything from tendu to grand battement, this rule is extremely important when jumping. Students tend to lose the foot’s connection to the floor in even simple jumps like sauté and changement. Instead, they move this much-needed energy into the upper parts of the body, where it creates tension in the neck, shoulders, and arms. Emphasize the action of the feet pointing hard in the first warm-up jump combination to set them up for petit and grand allegro exercises later.
There are many schools of thought about how to do a changement. I teach my advanced students to change their fifths immediately after they leave the floor. Here’s why: first, it helps students prepare for harder jumps like entrechats. Second, it’s an easy way for dancers to set themselves apart during auditions; it looks brisk and clean, and observers’ eyes will naturally be drawn to that dancer. Third, having spent 12 years as a professional in a major ballet company, I had many photos taken of me in the air in fifth position. When you change fifth immediately, you exponentially increase your chances of looking good in a photograph.
The basics of building a program for boys
By Claudia Bauer
“Can we do another jumping competition?” Five-year-old Theo is flushed at the end of his boys’ ballet class. He wants to dance more, jump more, learn more, and keep having fun.
Any teacher would love a studio full of talented, ballet-crazy boys like Theo (not his real name). Nikolai Kabaniaev, Theo’s teacher, is looking for more like him. As the director of the new men’s program at City Ballet School in San Francisco, Kabaniaev has developed a plan to recruit them, retain them, and cultivate their enthusiasm for ballet.
Kabaniaev brings 40 years of experience to this endeavor. Trained as a child at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, he was a soloist with the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet for nearly a decade before immigrating to California in 1991 and becoming a principal dancer with Oakland Ballet. After retiring from performing, he served as co-artistic director of Diablo Ballet while choreographing for an array of Bay Area companies. But he has found his métier in teaching boys’ and men’s ballet. He came to City Ballet School after a two-year tenure as senior boys’ teacher at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C.
His partner in the program is Galina Alexandrova, City Ballet School’s co-owner (with her husband, Ken Patsel). A former Bolshoi and San Francisco Ballet dancer, Alexandrova shares Kabaniaev’s sterling ballet pedigree and his unwavering belief that “if the school wants to progress professionally, it has to have a men’s program.”
You must be willing to conceptualize the program, front the necessary capital, and follow through without compromise. Be willing to start modestly, and build slowly. — Galina Alexandrova
Under Alexandrova’s leadership, City Ballet School has turned out pre-professional female ballet dancers since it began in 1987. To train today’s versatile dancers, current instructors, including Kristin Long, a former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer, and Anne-Sophie Rodriguez, who has danced with Boston Ballet and taught at Joffrey Ballet School, offer Vaganova-style classical training as well as contemporary classes. Graduates have gone on to respected traineeships and schools, including the Bolshoi Academy, while companies such as the Joffrey, San Francisco, and Alberta Ballets count CBS alumni in their ranks.
Boys and men have always been invited to join the school’s summer intensives, but a dedicated men’s program will round out the school. It will also allow the extensive pas de deux and partnering training that are so vital for aspiring professional ballet dancers. Alexandrova and Kabaniaev offer perspectives, insights, and tips on building a strong foundation for a boys’ ballet division.
Think big, start small
City Ballet School’s boys’ program launched in September 2013 with one class and four beginning students: Theo, plus 8-, 11- and 12-year-olds. But Alexandrova was willing to underwrite the program with only one student. “You must be willing to conceptualize the program, front the necessary capital, and follow through without compromise,” she says. “Be willing to start modestly, and build slowly.”
To that end, she has set promotional goals and marketing plans for the first year. Recruitment is a high priority, so she is promoting the program through advertising and special events, such as a party to introduce Kabaniaev to the school and the dance community. The boys performed in the school’s October recital (one of several annual performances), although they had trained for only two months. They partnered four girls in a piece set to Glière—a hit with the audience, a source of pride for the boys, and a publicity boost for the program.
The school has always included boys in its summer intensives, but Alexandrova’s first-year ambitions include an all-boys intensive in the summer of 2014. All along, she and Kabaniaev will focus on creating a positive community among the boys and growing a staff of highly regarded instructors, whose reputations will draw additional students to the program.
Like any business venture, a new boys’ program needs capital until it is self-supporting. Alexandrova and Kabaniaev are fundraising in the private and corporate sectors, and Kabaniaev is at work on a scholarship fund, which can mean the difference between keeping and losing promising boys who lack the resources to pay for training.
Define the program
Alexandrova knows exactly what she offers her students. “Our women’s program is the only one in San Francisco that exclusively offers Russian Vaganova training,” she says. It is the defining philosophy of City Ballet School, and it draws students who desire that training.
Now Kabaniaev is offering that to boys. The ultimate goal is to make the school a destination for pre-professional Vaganova-based training, and he and Alexandrova have agreed to make no compromises on the rigorousness of the training, the commitment level of the students, or the pace of each individual’s advancement. That kind of clear philosophy on training, and a defined structure for implementing it, can inspire confidence in parents, students, and potential funders.
Designed for students who want to become professional ballet dancers, the program will ultimately include two-hour technique classes five days per week, plus additional classes in variations, partnering, and contemporary dance.
For the time being, Kabaniaev’s beginning class is open to all boys who have a sincere interest. Even so, he and Alexandrova are prepared to turn away hopefuls in whom they don’t see the potential, drive, or enjoyment of ballet they are looking for.
“As long as they want to seriously take ballet, you take every student individually,” Alexandrova says. She and Kabaniaev agree that a school can undermine itself by focusing on short-term income rather than principled training—their choice may mean less revenue in the near term, but it serves their long-term goal of developing a high-caliber program.
Enrollment will eventually be by audition, as it already is for the girls. Kabaniaev and Alexandrova also trust that as the program’s reputation grows, it will draw young dancers with compatible goals. As enrollment grows and boys advance, the school will increase the number of classes, which Kabaniaev will segregate by skill level rather than by age.
Not every school will have such specific parameters, or even desire them. Leveraging what your school already does well and clarifying your values for boys’ dance training can help you establish effective founding guidelines in every style of boys’ dance class, including contemporary, competition, and hip-hop. Market research can also help you discover ways to develop a program that will appeal to your community. Since many boys start dance classes because they have a sister in dance, surveying parents about what dance styles, class times, and music their boys are interested in is a great way to start.
Focus on men’s technique
If you’re starting with only one or two boys, it may be tempting to save money by placing them in a girls’ class, then add boys-only training when enrollment increases. But Kabaniaev and Alexandrova recommend having dedicated boys’ classes from the outset. “Boys have to be with other boys in the class,” Kabaniaev says. “It’s a different training.” Dedicated classes for boys also show that you take their training seriously. Boys show respect for the program by arriving on time and adhering to the dress code (at City Ballet School, a classic white leotard, black tights, and black shoes).
They also advise hiring a male instructor, preferably one who has had professional experience as a performer. Not only will he have an innate understanding of men’s technique, he can also serve as a model of strength, athleticism, and artistry for boys to aspire to.
Kabaniaev knows from experience that strength, coordination, flexibility, and turnout are the foundations for everything boys will do as ballet dancers, and he structures his classes accordingly. The boys start out facing the mirror, at standing barres. The barres are parallel to a seam in the marley and positioned about 18 inches (boys’ arm distance) past it. Standing on the seam during pliés, tendus, dégagés, and grands battements, the boys have an easy visual reminder of where their turnout belongs. To teach rhythm, Kabaniaev has them say the counts out loud. While they work, he walks from one boy to the next, gently and repeatedly adjusting their shoulders, chins, and posture, and getting them onto their standing legs.
Patience, persistence, and open-mindedness are his watchwords. “Sometimes you just let them be, even if they’re not exactly doing what they are supposed to,” he says, adding that a two-hour class allows plenty of time for goofing off between focused exercises. When they do lose interest in “the boring stuff,” like repetitive barre work, he often laughs, charmed by their personalities. “Boys will be boys,” he says with a smile. After they burn off some energy, they are ready to refocus, and are once again eager to please.
Let boys be boys
“At 10, girls already want to be ballerinas. Boys, they’re a different animal,” Kabaniaev says. He takes advantage of their natural bent for performing and competing to keep them engaged, enthusiastic, and barely aware that they’re learning technique.
Most boys can hardly wait to do “fun stuff” like pirouettes, so he uses those as rewards for dutifully completing their tendus. For beginners, pirouettes are an ambitious goal; though performed with verve, they are wobbly and turned-in. But, says Kabaniaev about his training at the Vaganova Academy in the 1970s, “we wouldn’t start pirouettes until we were 13 years old, and then it is too late. Coordination develops at an early age—the earlier the better. They just need to try.”
And Kabaniaev is not above a little trickery. “I told them, ‘In academics, when you want to ask a question, you raise your hand. In ballet, you raise your leg over your head.’ So now when they ask a question, they go ‘Ugh!’ and raise their leg.”
Instead of asking for eight sautés in first position, Kabaniaev might have the boys do a low-stakes competition. Lined up side by side, they see who can sauté longer than the others. “After four jumps, their muscles start getting tired,” he says. “But nobody wants to give up.”
Ever protective of his charges, Kabaniaev makes sure the boys don’t overwork. He will call a tie to bring a competition to a dignified, and safe, end—a result that the boys seem content with. The rule is that when they quit, they have to lie on the floor in the frog position while the others keep going. This double ruse gets the boys doing many more sautés, with much more gusto, than a traditional exercise, while improving their turnout with repeated frog stretches.
Pushups, sit-ups, and changements also work well for competitions. Spread them throughout class time to keep spirits up, and save one competition for the end of class, to finish on a high note before réverénce. It’s a simple and effective way to build camaraderie in the group; after all, the more emotionally invested the boys are, and the more fun they have, the stronger their commitment will be. And even though only one boy gets to taste the thrill of victory, they all learn that giving their best effort can bring meaningful rewards.
Ultimately, all of these efforts are geared toward a critical goal: creating a place where boys can enjoy themselves and fall in love with ballet.
“There is no magic,” Kabaniaev says. It takes hard work, creativity, a financial investment, and a leap of faith. “After the first class, I thought maybe the next day Theo wouldn’t be there,” he says. “But he was there. I talked to his mom and she said, ‘He said the class is too short.’ ”
Sheffield School of the Dance’s three generations of dance lovers
By Lea Marshall
In 1943, young dancer Mary Lou Sheffield brought together a dozen neighborhood children in Mobile, Alabama, for dance classes in her living room. She was 12 years old. Seventy years later, Sheffield School of the Dance, with three locations and more than 500 students, still credits “Ms. Mary Lou’s” love of dance and devotion with helping students grow “strong in body, mind, and spirit,” says her grandson, Colby Shinn.
The school, which has three locations, is now staffed and directed by three generations—including 83-year-old Ms. Mary Lou (now Sheffield-Noletto), her two daughters, Theresa Noletto-Hutchins and Celi Noletto-Shinn, and Noletto-Shinn’s son, Colby Shinn.
When I got back to New York [after the vaudeville tour], my mother called and told me I had 100 students who were waiting for me back in Mobile. . . . I guess it was meant for me to come back home and start a school. —Mary Lou Sheffield-Noletto
The primary studio location for many years, says Shinn, was in the back of Sheffield-Noletto’s home. “That’s still considered our main office location,” he says. “We still have one day of classes down there, three baby classes, though for the most part Ms. Mary Lou is retired. She still works on the business aspect of the studio, but she doesn’t teach on a regular basis anymore. Our main studio location in West Mobile has been our powerhouse since the early 1980s.”
Meant to be
Sheffield-Noletto studied dance as a child in Mobile; once she reached age 16, during the summers her mother took her to New York to deepen her studies. She taught all through high school, and after a brief stint touring and performing with a vaudeville company (for which she turned down the chance to be a Radio City Rockette), she returned to Mobile and opened a studio in 1950.
Of her decision to return home, she says, “When I got back to New York [after the vaudeville tour], my mother called and told me I had 100 students who were waiting for me back in Mobile. She had already found a facility that was going to be adequate and a good start, and so I guess it was meant for me to come back home and start a school.” After her marriage, she and her husband built the studio additions to their house, and since then, she says, “we’ve been able to grow by leaps and bounds.”
Sheffield School of the Dance began by offering ballet, jazz, and tap; over the years the curriculum has expanded to include hip-hop, lyrical, contemporary, and other styles, based on teacher interest and student demand. Colby Shinn began teaching a hip-hop class in 2006, with 50 students enrolled; now more than 200 students take hip-hop in multiple class offerings per week.
“We’ve been very lucky,” says Shinn of the studio’s consistent growth and success. “The Sheffield name has been around so many years.” You can almost draw a direct line, he says, from most people involved in dance in the area back to his grandmother, “because she was a real pioneer of dance in Mobile.”
From studio to stage and back again
All three generations at Sheffield School have followed Sheffield-Noletto’s pattern of engaging in a professional career, however brief, before returning to Mobile to focus on teaching. Celi Noletto-Shinn moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, after high school and danced with a small company there before returning to Mobile a year later. “When I came back,” she says, “I was very enthused to bring my experiences back to my students.”
Her sister, Theresa Noletto-Hutchins, danced professionally with Susan Quinn and Michael Williams. For a time Quinn and Williams were based in Pensacola, so Noletto-Hutchins taught at Sheffield and commuted an hour each way, three days a week, to work with their company, First City Dance Theatre. Says Noletto-Shinn, “For both of us, having professional careers and still being involved [in the studio] made us excited to share” new knowledge and experience with their students.
Similarly, Shinn now splits his time between working on the road with Tremaine Dance Conventions and teaching at the school three days per week. “I home-port out of Mobile,” he says. “It’s cool that I get the best of both worlds. I stay very involved with the studio where I grew up, yet I still get to get out and see the world and do a lot of other projects.”
Three generations collaborate
Sheffield-Noletto remained the school’s principal teacher and director well into her 50s, but she nurtured her daughters’ early interest in teaching. “Once my sister and I got out of high school,” Noletto-Shinn says, “and my mom saw that we were so interested in wanting to carry on, she gave us a lot of opportunities to teach.” By the time her mother reached age 55, she was able, says Noletto-Shinn, “to step back and let my sister and me go full throttle.”
“They have been the backbone of the studio,” Shinn says. He grew interested in dance by being immersed in the studio life rather than from any pressure from his family. He took to jazz at around age 5, and from then he was hooked, taking classes and attending competitions.
As he grew older, his family noticed his interest in choreography, production, and direction. Just like his grandmother saw leadership potential in her daughters, so did Shinn’s mother see the same in him. By the time he was 14, his mother was asking him to help choreograph.
Now Shinn works alongside his mother, aunt, and grandmother as a teacher and co-director of the school. He says he appreciates the inspiration they find in one another, especially in the partnership between himself, his mother, and his aunt. “The three of us have collaborated on choreography projects throughout the years,” he says. “It’s been rewarding to see what we could create.”
He values the wisdom that his family shares and credits his mother and aunt, in large part, with “turning me into the dancer and artist I am today. Watching their work, growing up, and then starting to develop who I am as a choreographer—it’s been a full circle.”
Above all else
Last June, for the studio’s 70th-anniversary celebration, the Sheffield School recital took the form of a multi-generational extravaganza, including a reunion of studio alumni. Shinn says the excitement of that performance persisted through the start of this new school year. “It’s exciting to see everybody coming in, their energy and their drive and their excitement, because everything finished on an unbelievable high from the reunion,” he says. “There’s definitely a fresh, exciting energy in the studio right now.”
Above all else, Sheffield-Noletto’s love for the art form and her goal of inspiring a similar love of dance in students of all ages have carried into her daughters’ and grandson’s approach to teaching. That, she says, accounts for the school’s success.
“The love of dance my grandmother has had for so many years has been our anchor,” Shinn says. “Her love of dance has translated through every teacher, every student who has walked through the doors of our studio. And I think the fact that we’ve always had such a strong family bond, sharing the same passion, has translated to our students. When you walk into our studio, there’s an immediate family feeling.”
The Royal New Zealand Ballet is searching for a new artistic director, reports Stuff.com.nz.
Ethan Stiefel, RNZB artistic director since 2011, has not extended his contract with the Wellington-based professional ballet company, instead choosing to return home to the United States, the company confirmed.
“I have enjoyed growing alongside the RNZB, and I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to live and work in New Zealand,” Stiefel said. “Despite how rewarding the experience has been it has proved difficult on a personal level to be so far away from family and friends.”
RNZB chair Candis Craven praised Stiefel and his fiancée—Gillian Murphy, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and RNZB’s principal guest artist in 2012—for their contributions to New Zealand ballet. Behind the scenes Stiefel had expanded RNZB and strengthened its reputation, she said. The company experienced record-breaking seasons under his leadership.
An international search for a new artistic director was currently underway and the RNZB Board hoped to fill the spot by September. To see the original story, visit http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/arts/9789347/Ballet-boss-quits-for-home.
Before Patrick Swayze hit the Catskill Mountains as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, he learned to dance right here in Houston. And it was the good fortune of Jennifer Wood, Heights resident and Suchu Dance founder and artistic director, to end up in the studio where the magic began.
According to the Leader, Wood owned and managed a large studio and theater but, seeking to simplify things, moved her nonprofit company into a space at Ella Plaza, 3480 Ella Boulevard. It was only when Wood and managing director Vipul Divecha were doing paperwork that they saw that Patsy Swayze’s Houston JazzBallet Company was registered to their address. “It was intriguing,” said Wood. “Then we read in Patrick Swayze’s biography that he would walk across the street to Ella Plaza to take dance classes after school.”
The definitive proof came from a choreographer who had danced with Patsy Swayze and from other former students who sent her pictures of the building. Suchu Dance was in the exact same spot as the Swayze School of Dance—a fantastic marketing tool.
While Suchu is gaining momentum in its new home—the company just finished its first show, Nothing, in February—it was slow going at first. The building, for which Wood signed a three-year lease in October, had been abandoned for some time and needed a lot of sweat equity. “The floor wasn’t level and the walls were very purple,” said Wood.
To read the full story, visit http://www.theleadernews.com/?p=16247.
The dancer Jenifer Ringer, who retired this month from New York City Ballet, has been appointed head of the Colburn Dance Academy, a new division of the Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times has reported.
The New York Times ArtsBeat blog said the Colburn School, where music, dance, and drama are currently taught, is starting the new, more specialized program in the fall, in partnership with the L.A. Dance Project and its director, Benjamin Millepied. The program is for students between 14 and 19 who hope to become professional dancers, and admission will be through audition.
Millepied, who will take up his new role as director of the Paris Opera Ballet in the fall, will serve as an artistic adviser to the program. James Fayette, also a former City Ballet principal and Ringer’s husband, will be the associate director of the Colburn Dance Academy in addition to his current job as managing director of the L.A. Dance Project.
“L.A. Dance Project’s presence is really being felt in L.A. now,” Millepied wrote in an email. “We are building a new audience, we are bringing art, dance, and music to an exciting community. And we are now creating a school to nurture and encourage the next generation of artists.”
To see the original article, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/former-city-ballet-dancer-to-lead-academy-in-los-angeles/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Arts&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs®ion=Body&_r=0.
American Ballet Theatre will mark the 75th anniversary of its founding next year with a new production of The Sleeping Beauty choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and based on the production Léon Bakst created for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1921, the company announced.
The New York Times ArtsBeat blog said Ratmansky, the troupe’s artist in residence, has long wanted to choreograph the seminal story ballet. “Tchaikovsky’s complex score and Petipa’s choreography represent the highest achievement of Russian classical art,’’ he said in a statement. “It symbolizes the harmony and magic of classical dance for me.”
The work will have its premiere on March 3, 2015, at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, and will be part of ABT’s 2015 Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House. It will be ABT’s fourth production of The Sleeping Beauty.
The production, which is being underwritten with a $2.5 million matching gift from David H. Koch, an ABT trustee, will have sets and costumes designed by Richard Hudson, who will base them on the Bakst production of 1921.
Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, said that he was excited by the project. “Having Alexei put his touch to this classic, incorporating elements of a historical reproduction, will make us look anew at The Sleeping Beauty,” he said in a statement.
Ivan Nagy, the charismatic and globally famed dancer who was Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic director from 1986 to 1989, died Saturday in Budapest, the city where he began his rise to global prominence in the dance world. He was 70 years old.
The Cincinnati Enquirer says that Nagy’s career would include the artistic leadership of three ballet companies on three continents. But he remained best-known as elegant and regal partner to many of the world’s greatest ballerinas, including Dame Margot Fonteyn, Natalia Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Carla Fracci, and Gelsey Kirkland.
“I danced my first ‘Giselle’ with him,” Cynthia Gregory, a former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, reminisced. “It’s a performance that is still emblazoned in my head and in my heart. I felt I was floating with him. That’s when I fell in love with him. He was so dreamy.”
But at the age of 35, at what many regarded as his peak, Nagy announced he was retiring, wanting to avoid the physical ailments that plague so many dancers as they get older.
Nagy was lured to Cincinnati Ballet’s by then-acting artistic director Frederic Franklin, a former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo member, who had had “discovered” Nagy at a ballet competition in Bulgaria in 1965. Franklin knew Nagy had the star power and dance world connections to give Cincinnati the boost it needed.
“Ivan presided over a ‘Golden Era’ in the history of the Cincinnati Ballet,” says the company’s longtime music director Carmon DeLeone. But that onstage success was coupled with behind-the-scenes management issues, which led to his exit in 1989.
During his career, Nagy also served as artistic director of the English National Ballet in London, and twice as artistic director at the Ballet de Santiago in Chile. To see the full obit, visit http://cincinnati.com/blogs/arts/2014/02/24/obituary-ivan-nagy-70-former-cincinnati-ballet-artistic-director/.
The Dance Council of North Texas and the Town of Addison will celebrate dance styles from contemporary ballet to traditional Aztec dance to Russian folk dance during a free Mother’s Day event to be held May 11 from 2 to 4pm at the Addison Theatre Center, 15650 Addison Road.
This year’s Taste Dance Addison Style interactive performance schedule includes:
• Mitotiliztli Yaoyollohtli: Aztec Dance Company
• Hathaway Academy of Ballet: The Project Contemporary Dance Ensemble
• Marina Almayeva School of Classical Ballet: Russian Folk Dance
• Booker T. Washington HS of the Performing and Visual Arts’ Rep II Dance Company
Presenting groups will also give instruction in their style. Visit www.thedancecouncil.org for more information.
Tanaquil Le Clercq isn’t a household name, but she still holds a stunning place in ballet history. In the 1950s, “Tanny,” a gorgeous Paris-born American, was muse to the great New York City Ballet choreographer George Balanchine, who’d become her husband, and also to choreographer Jerome Robbins, who remained her friend.
But in 1956, at the age of 27 in the middle of a NYCB European tour (and after having refused a pre-tour polio vaccine), Tanny was struck down by polio, never to walk or dance again. It’s a story told in the new documentary, Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, showing through February 25 at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York City.
Director, producer and writer Nancy Buirski discussed the film with 90.9 WBUR Boston’s Here & Now’s Robin Young.
On why she decided to make the film: “Actually, it was how compelling Tanny was herself. I saw her dancing a small segment of Afternoon of a Fawn and I was mesmerized by her beauty and her talent and her intelligence on stage. And I just wanted to see more of her and I was amazed that I didn’t know anything about her. Well then I discovered what had happened, that she had been stricken by polio and that her career had been cut tragically short. And I immediately committed myself to telling her story.”
On the ballet world’s reaction to the film: “First of all, they’re very grateful. They get to see how she comes to accept this. You know, Tanny did not overcome polio, but she personally comes to some level of acceptance about this disease. And I think that that’s something we all take away from the film, that we—even if it’s just a question of age, which causes some limitations, that if we can accept it as gracefully and eloquently as Tanny did, then we can still have a full life.”
To see the full interview and a movie trailer, visit http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/02/18/ballet-polio-tanaquil.
Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet artistic director who was wounded in an acid attack last year, will visit New York in April as one of the judges in the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition, officials from the contest announced.
The New York Times ArtsBeat blog said Filin is expected to take a curtain call at the competition’s 15th anniversary gala on April 10 at the David H. Koch Theater, which will feature Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi, and Misty Copeland and other dancers from American Ballet Theater, among the performers.
Filin is scheduled to answer questions from the stage the following night, before a performance by several prominent dancers, including Sara Mearns of New York City Ballet, Herman Cornejo of the American Ballet Theater, and Alicia Graf Mack of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
The attack on Filin last year outraged the ballet world and threw the Bolshoi into turmoil. A former dancer in the company, Pavel V. Dmitrichenko, was sentenced to six years in a penal colony for ordering the attack, which partially blinded Filin. A spokeswoman for the competition said Filin’s sight in one eye was strong enough for him to act as a judge.
To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/a-year-after-acid-attack-bolshoi-director-to-visit-new-york/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&contentCollection=Arts&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs®ion=Body&_r=0.
A Swan Lake newly reimagined by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon will have its Chicago premiere next fall as a main production in The Joffrey Ballet’s 2014-15 season.
The season will mark 20 years since the New York City-founded company moved its base to Chicago, and along with Swan Lake, will feature both premieres and audience favorites from choreographers such as Antony Tudor, Yuri Possokhov, Robert Joffrey, James Kudelka, Stanton Welch, and others.
Swan Lake, with 10 performances set October 15 to 26, is a $1.5 million production with lavish costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant and scenic design by Adrianne Lobel. Commissioned for the Pennsylvania Ballet in 2004 to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, Wheeldon’s reimagining sets Swan Lake in the 19th century milieu of the Paris Opera Ballet, during the time when Tchaikovsky was actually composing Swan Lake and when Edgar Degas was on the rise.
The ballet uses actual Degas imagery to create an Opera Ballet studio, and the ballerinas and their wealthy patrons of those days serve as central characters. While the dance ensemble prepares for a major opening night gala, a young boy, Siegfried, daydreams of escaping rehearsal for the lake.
Performances take place in the Joffrey’s home venue, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, in downtown Chicago at 50 East Congress Parkway. To see the full season schedule, visit www.joffrey.org.
Former American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet principal Robert La Fosse has been passing down his expertise to students of the Scarsdale Ballet Studio in Westchester, New York, as the studio prepares to present Coppélia on March 29 and 30 at the Dance Lab at SUNY Purchase College.
Coppélia will be the first full-length ballet to be presented since the school opened its doors in 1992. Studio director Diana White and La Fosse have been coaching the students and sharing memories of their experiences dancing together at NYCB.
White said the ballet not only offers great opportunity to aspiring dancers to perform an abundance of solo roles and explore eccentric characterizations and work, but also provides the opportunity to perform with La Fosse, who will appear as Dr. Coppelius. La Fosse will reprise this same role later this month with NYCB at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
Coppélia will be performed March 29 at 6:30pm and March 30th at 1:30pm at the Dance Lab at SUNY Purchase, 735 Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, New York. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for children under the age of 12 and can be purchased in person at the Scarsdale Ballet Studio, located at 696R White Plains Road in Scarsdale, or by calling 914.725.8754.
More than 80 students/dancers from Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia came together to share a stage and their love of dance this weekend—a collaboration that had been two years in the making, reported The Daily Princetonian.
Columbia Ballet Collaborative, Harvard Ballet Company, and Princeton University Ballet each performed four pieces at the Miller Theatre at Columbia University in New York City this weekend. The three companies—the only student-run ballet troupes in the Ivy League—had spent the past two years planning the Ivy Ballet Exchange event and delegating the responsibilities involved in producing the inaugural performance.
What began as Columbia graduate student Elysia Dawn’s initial vision has grown into a full-fledged production. Dancers within each company had individual visions of what the collaboration would look like and reached a consensus on the specifics of their performances largely through communication by Skype, emails, and conference calls.
Each company also had to prepare pieces to feature in the performance. Initially, the groups hoped they might be able to perform together and intersperse their separate pieces with a goal of blending the different schools and highlighting ballet as a link and the focus of the collaboration.
Although the logistics of the long-distance partnership prevented that, the heart of the collaboration remains: the desire to bring together a group of people who, despite being in different schools, share a passion for ballet. Through that commitment and the amount of time the dancers have dedicated to perfecting their art, the participants have found many shared experiences between the companies and dance itself.
“I met with Elysia over the summer, and it was so cool how much we could relate on even though we went to different schools and had different experiences,” PUB president Caroline Hearst, ’14, said. “We are different ages, but there was just so much we had in common having gone through all that ballet training together.”
To see the full story, visit http://dailyprincetonian.com/street/2014/02/ivy-ballet-exchange/.
As Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962, Lawrence Gradus was standing behind the curtain with other members of Jerome Robbins’s Ballets U.S.A. dance troupe, which was also on the program that night.
Toronto’s Globe and Mail said that Gradus, who died of prostate cancer in Ottawa on January 7, rose from humble beginnings to become a brilliant dancer and choreographer with a wide-ranging career that saw him cross paths with some of the most celebrated performers of his day. Performing in I Can Get it For You Wholesale, Gradus taught a young Barbra Streisand tap-dance steps backstage, only to be interrupted by her mother dropping off a tub of chicken soup.
In 1967, Canada claimed him when he accepted an invitation to dance at Expo 67. He went on to found the influential Montreal-based contemporary dance company Entre-Six, and later worked with Ottawa’s Theatre Ballet of Canada.
Born in the Bronx in 1936 to Anna and Julius Gradus, he started tap-dance classes at age 7 and would sneak into Broadway musicals and dance performances at intermissions. He studied at the Ballet Russe school and then the American Ballet Theatre school on a scholarship. In 1961, he became a soloist with Jerome Robbins’s Ballets U.S.A., performing around the world, and returned after a couple of years to rejoin American Ballet Theatre.
In 1974, after a handful of years dancing with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Gradus co-founded the dance company Entre-Six, where he took on bold, new repertoire and embarked on a fresh kind of touring, Canadian style; to Tuktoyaktuk, for instance, where dancers were welcomed by Inuit snowmobilers towing a string of sleds. The company dined on caribou stew and deer meat, then danced en pointe in a local school. An improvised stage was built with rubberized mats laced together by duct tape.
He taught and choreographed for National Ballet of Canada’s outreach program, the Danny Grossman Dance Theatre, Ryerson University, and other places.
When on relevé using one or two feet, the weight should be equally balanced between all toes and the ball of the foot. Remind your students to think of spreading out their toes in their shoes, because this gives a more stable platform on which to perform sustained balances.
All three muscles in the calf should be working equally in a high three-quarter relevé. Often the medial (inside, and more pronounced) side of the gastrocnemius, in conjunction with the soleus, is used too much and the lateral side becomes weak. Dancers should practice relevé at the barre next to the mirror so they can visualize all three muscles working to find proper alignment and an equal balancing position.
Pacific Northwest Ballet School will hold a Teachers’ Seminar April 9 to 12 featuring presentations in dance training, philosophies, and practical practices, along with tickets to PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Participants experience an insider’s view of PNBS’ programs for students ages 2 to professional as they exchange ideas and make new connections within the dance education field. The program will be held at PNB’s dance training facility, the Phelps Center, Seattle.
Topics include: Engaging Young Dancers (ages 4 to 7); Costuming on a Limited Budget; Fostering Emerging Choreographic Talent; Marketing Strategies for Ballet Schools; Injury Screening and Prevention; How to Get Boys to Your School and How to Keep Them; and others.
Cost for the full four-day seminar is $700, with individual days priced at $200.
More information, visit http://www.pnb.org/Community/Teacher/
To register, visit http://www.pnb.org/Community/Teacher/2014RegistrationForm.pdf.
The Vancouver International Dance Festival (VIDF) will feature a globe-spanning roster of artists and creators who will take to the city’s stages from March 7 to 29.
This vibrant festival features a diverse array of international icons, including China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company and Spain’s flamenco innovator Israel Galván, coupled with local favorites Dancers Dancing, the 605 Collective, among many others.
“VIDF exists to celebrate and explore dance in its enriching and endlessly fascinating incarnations,” says artistic director Barbara Bourget. “This season’s programming realizes this purpose in the most brilliant manner—perhaps more so than any other season—by drawing master practitioners who represent a vast range of geographic place and distinguished artistic form.”
A standout early event features Guangdong Modern Dance Company, China’s first professional modern dance company, appearing with Vancouver’s award-winning Goh Ballet in “Select Works/Mustard Seed” at the Vancouver Playhouse on March 7 and 8 at 8pm.
The Vail International Dance Festival’s 2014 edition will be held July 27 through August 9, marking its 26th season with world premieres, debuts, and collaborations, according to the Vail Daily.
Under the direction of former New York City Ballet standout Damian Woetzel, the festival has established itself as one of the premiere dance events in the world. This year, the festival announces Argentina’s Herman Cornejo as artist in residence and Pennsylvania Ballet and BalletX as companies in residence.
The festival also welcomes back ballerina Wendy Whelan in the Vail debut of her new project, Restless Creature, along with New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, Carla Körbes from Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Martha Graham Dance Company, tango artists Gabriel Missé and Analia Centurión, and the Memphis dancer Lil’ Buck.
“The Vail International Dance Festival is more and more about collaboration—combining contrasting styles of dance or dancers who have never worked together before,” Woetzel said. “These explorations are what make the festival a unique experience for the dancers and the audience. Pushing the limits and experimenting with what is possible has really become the goal.”
Performances take place at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail and the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. Fan Club presale tickets are available March 19 to 21; public sale begins March 25 and “Dance for $20.14” tickets go on sale in June. A full schedule of performances and other festival events are available at www.vaildance.org.
To see the original story, visit http://www.vaildaily.com/news/10168013-113/dance-ballet-aug-festival.
Young pre-ballet students often need help feeling the difference between pointed and flexed feet while they’re moving. They do fine with seated point-and-flex exercises in pike position, but moving around is a different story. In order to encourage preschool and kindergarten dancers to stretch and point their feet, I have devised “Princess Pointy-Feet,” a simple game that uses pointed and flexed feet.
I play ballet music and tell students that they are Princess (or Prince, if applicable) Pointy-Feet, who, in addition to being royalty, is a famous dancer. Everywhere she goes, she’s recognized by everyone because of her beautifully pointed feet.
She waves to everyone she meets, because she’s very polite. However, waving to everyone can get tiring, so she has a magic disguise. When she gets tired, she waves her magic wand and turns into Princess Flexy-Feet. This allows her to walk around without being recognized. When she’s ready to wave again, she changes back.
The children walk around the room, pointing their feet with each step, and use a simple port de bras to wave to all the imaginary people they encounter. They get “tired” and disguise themselves, walking with exaggeratedly flexed feet and making “sneaky” faces. Then they change back, pointing their feet again.
Mix it up by changing the speed of walking, adding turns or jumps, or changing quickly between “Pointy-Feet” and “Flexy-Feet.” You can also add fun props like hoops to jump in or scarves to wave.
Add drama to the game by giving Princess Pointy-Feet a more important reason to disguise herself. One scenario is that she’s hiding from a wicked wizard. The children take turns being the wizard, creating their own wizard dance to do while they look for pointing toes. If they find any, they turn that princess into a ballerina statue until the next wizard is appointed.
This can be a fun way to introduce the difference between pointed and flexed feet to students and to remind them to keep pointing those ballet feet.
Kids like dance because they like to move—with abandon, without thinking, like rolling down a hill or spinning like a helicopter. It’s a simple fact, but as we get caught up in teaching technique and drilling choreography, it’s one we often forget. Don’t. Here are some “movement madness” exercises to try with preschoolers through 10-year-olds.
For a modification of that old favorite, the “freeze dance,” spread out a gymnastic mat or two in the middle of the room. Everyone skips around the mat, jumping onto it when the music stops. Shout out fun instructions that everyone must follow on each freeze—keep one leg lifted, for example, or make a silly face.
Have everyone race across the room with crab walks, frog hops, or camel walks (hands and feet on the ground, legs and arms straight). Or pair everyone off and have them move across the room in a gigantic game of leapfrog.
Set up a pattern on the floor with Hula-Hoops. Students can begin by hopping through the pattern, in and out of the hoops. Switch so they’re leaping in (with one foot) and leaping out (with the other). Change it into an obstacle course by having a few students hold hoops upright so the others can crawl through them (as if through a mouse hole).
Create four vertical lines on the floor with tape or chalk. Find an up-tempo song with a steady beat (techno works well). Divide the students into four teams and assign each team to a line. One dancer hops to the end of the drawn/taped line, then skips back to the beginning, and the next dancer starts. Keep changing the hops—try one- or two-footed hops jumping right to left over the line; jumps in second position facing front, then back, then front; hops with a beat of the feet when in the air. It’s not a race; they return to the beginning of the line and wait their turn to go again, usually until the song is over or they look like they’re going to drop. Then I say “Great job!”
Words from our readers
Thank you for the wonderful article about NBS’ Assemblée Internationale festival [“Assemblée Internationale 2013: Canada’s international festival proves there are no borders, nationally or technologically, in ballet,” by Joseph Carman] in the September issue of DSL. It looked great! Hopefully you’ll be able to join us for the next AI!
Senior Communications Officer
Canada’s National Ballet School
Thank you for including us in your October issue [“Showtime Styles: A look at who does what for recitals across the U.S.,” by Maureen Janson]!
Andrea In Motion/AIM Studio
Staten Island, NY
How to make ballet fun for kids who resist it
By Melanie Gibbs
Repetitive exercises. Intimidating terminology. A less-than-fashionable dress code. And, to many kids, boring music. Is it any wonder so many students struggle with ballet class?
Since buying a studio in 2004, I don’t spend much time in the classroom anymore. But for more than 10 years I taught a heavy schedule of ballet classes every week, mostly for competition students who were primarily focused on jazz and didn’t hide their dislike of ballet. I made it my mission to get these students as excited about ballet as I was.
I became known as the barefoot ballet teacher; frequently, I had students take off their shoes so we could investigate articulation of the feet.
As a young student I fell in love with ballet. I spent hours poring over old performance programs, memorizing the dancers’ names, and learning everything I could about the art form. I attended workshops and performances, auditioned for summer programs, got my pointe shoes autographed. My career, however, was as a professional jazz dancer, traveling the world with performance opportunities I never knew existed when I was a student. My strong ballet training likely helped me land some of those jobs. It occurred to me years later that my students might not be making the vital connection between good ballet and good jazz (or good hip-hop, or good lyrical, and so on).
Most of my teaching style focused on relating to my students and making ballet seem accessible. The most important part of any class is the relationship between teacher and student; however, I implemented some classroom techniques that worked well for competitive jazz students. Here are five of my favorites.
1. Keep it casual.
It sounds silly, but I think my sweatpant-chic style of dressing helped students, especially the middle schoolers, relax around me and identified me as someone who understood jazz dance and spoke their language. I became known as the barefoot ballet teacher; frequently, I had students take off their shoes so we could investigate articulation of the feet.
Asking the students investigative questions about the dress code always got hands shooting into the air (and elicited some pretty articulate answers). I found that when I took a moment during barre exercises to ask, “Why do you think your hair needs to be in a bun?” or “Why do you think some ballet tights have seams down the back?” I was asking them to engage instead of zoning out. Such questions helped them understand why the teacher could dance in a T-shirt but they weren’t allowed to. It’s my experience that when students understand the reasoning behind a rule, they are much more apt to follow it.
2. Keep it relevant.
This one really worked with the high school level. I provoked jazz-focused students’ interest by telling stories about my own industry experiences as a jazz dancer, then went on to detail my lifelong love of ballet. This helped them make the connection that ballet training automatically makes you better at jazz, an idea that’s reinforced when ballet dancers are cast in a Broadway show or do particularly well on a TV talent competition. This “talk time” also gave me a chance to share anecdotes or trivia about ballet, which I would quiz the students on later (more on that below).
Do a little digging and find out what your students love, what is meaningful to them. Then find a way to make them understand how ballet is invaluable to whatever that is. Do they love tap? Ballet will improve speed and accuracy and balance out tap-fatigued shins and ankles. Love hip-hop? Ballet will improve strength, control, and isolations.
Talking about ballet from a physical, holistic standpoint worked particularly well with students who were also cheerleaders or athletes.
3. Hold them accountable.
Informal terminology quizzes were a popular feature of my class and were taken very seriously, so much so that the first students of the day would warn the others to be prepared. I structured questions to set the students up for success as much as possible and jokingly assured them the test would not affect their “dance GPA.” There was very little real anxiety over it, but it amazed me how hard they tried and how proud they were of their scores.
Throughout the year I would sprinkle in some basic anatomy terms and include these in the quizzes; I still beam with pride when I hear a student talk about her iliopsoas. I also included questions related to a story I had told previously, to see who had been paying attention. These tests gave me some priceless floor/talk time with the students, a chance to share with them all I knew and loved about ballet.
4. Make it silly.
Sometimes we teachers need to lighten up a little; ballet isn’t a life-or-death situation. Using humor to distract from what students can perceive as endless repetition worked well for my classes. I laughed with students throughout the class over elaborate terms like “sur le cou-de-pied” (“on the neck of the foot” just seems unnecessarily long) and made smart-alecky side comments to waiting groups so the students who weren’t dancing stayed engaged. We used “cartwheel” to help remember écarté position and would occasionally do a balletic cartwheel (ending in écarté derrière, of course) just to refresh our memories.
It was a class rule to applaud to ease embarrassment when someone fell while attempting a difficult turn or jump. To combat boredom or stiffness, I often encouraged the students to enjoy this time in “Ballet Land” and allow themselves to be the swan/maiden/princess they didn’t get a chance to be in their other classes.
This elicited responses from students age 8 to 18; you’d be surprised how valuable imagination can be for even the most jaded students. By being unafraid to act foolish myself, I relieved them of their own self-consciousness—surely they couldn’t look dumber than Ms. Melanie, right? My slightly over-the-top behavior freed them to use their port de bras just a little more like Giselle.
5. Change it up.
In addition to focusing on the mental aspect of my classes, I liked to play with the structure of the exercises. Try changing legs or facings frequently. I talked about the importance of the entire body being “awake” and not resting in that supporting leg. For example, within the same tendu exercise, we might switch to the inside leg or face away from the barre or toward a partner—anything to keep them engaged.
Sometimes I used an eight-count vamp in the music (normally used for turning to the other side) to have the students do a ballet walk to center, where they would repeat the exercise without the support of the barre.
I tried to always make the connection between barre exercise and center, center exercise and choreography, choreography and performance. The barre can sometimes become a kind of purgatory where students’ brains shut off, thinking that they only “really dance” when they’re in the center.
I often brought students into the center to do a strengthening exercise—like back extensions on the floor, to reinforce an arabesque exercise—then sent them back to the barre. My goal was for them to understand what we were working on, why we were working on it, and then be able to apply it immediately.
In teaching ballet, what’s most important is not underestimating the contagious effect of your enthusiasm. Some of my college professors made a believer out of me purely through their own obvious love for some awfully dry subjects. We all know it isn’t easy to fool kids, so you can’t fake that enthusiasm. But if you’ve got it, let your passion show. Get them to love ballet first and the pursuit of excellence will naturally follow.
Alvin Ailey believed that dance is for everybody. I would take that a little further and say that ballet is for everybody—it’s our job as educators to make sure that everyone feels welcome at the barre.
Ballet Books That Inspire
The Book of Ballet: Learning and Appreciating the Secrets of Dance by Nancy Ellison
In this book one page has five identical photos of a male dancer jumping. At first glance you might assume this was a single photo displayed five times, but in fact it is five separate jumps. The fact that this dancer could repeat the exact same movement down to the smallest detail shows amazing control.
Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen W. Warren
This book has easy-to-understand breakdowns of traditional ballet exercises from barre to grand allegro and gorgeous full-size photos that are inspiring and informative—great for teachers who aren’t able to demonstrate every exercise. Visual aids like these can make or break a student’s understanding of (and desire to achieve) a certain step.
Inside Ballet Technique: Separating Anatomical Fact from Fiction in the Ballet Classroom by Valerie Grieg
This book is wonderful for introducing the science of anatomy/kinesiology to young dancers. It is organized into eight sections so you can choose which body parts to focus on depending on what you’re working on in class. It’s a good book to bring in during a holiday week or after a competition, when students are tired and motivation is low.
Most dance books geared toward younger students tend to rely on cartoon characters and the fantasy side of ballet, with little emphasis on technique or realism. For younger students (as well as older ones), I recommend a field trip to see a performance. Miami City Ballet does a wonderful Ballet for Young People program. If local professional companies don’t offer something similar, check out regional companies in your area that might do child-friendly programs. And don’t forget the dance DVDs at your local library.
Most refrigerators in households that include teenagers contain the usual mix of less-than-healthy items—leftover pizza, liters of soda, and sugary snacks. But Chef Matthias Bodnar has a strict “no junk” policy when it comes to the kitchen where he prepares meals for students of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.
“It gets pitched,” Bodnar tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as he prepares to feed the nearly two dozen students dinner. “It’s part of what they have to accept.”
Bodnar has been with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for four seasons serving as chef for students of the school and summer intensive programs. The job appealed to the personal chef, who was looking to expand his healthy-cooking repertoire.
“These are really serious dancers,” he says. “They hope to move on to being professional dancers. Getting to eat properly right from the get-go gives them an advantage. It’s really important to get on the right track.”
Bodnar acts as the students’ nutritionist and determines what foods and portions are best. He serves meat every other day, uses brown rice instead of white, substitutes ground chicken or turkey for beef, makes veggie burgers, and uses whole-wheat pasta. Those modifications don’t always go over well with students at first, he admits. But some of his dishes are instant hits, like his macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and burritos, and in the summer, he likes to grill vegetables and serve fruit as much as possible.
To see the full article, visit http://triblive.com/lifestyles/fooddrink/5499634-74/bodnar-says-students#axzz2t7d7FESE.
Canton, Michigan, native Precious Adams was one of six scholarship recipients at the recent 42nd annual Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition held in Lausanne, Switzerland. Adams, who trains at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, was also awarded the contemporary dance prize.
This year a total of 295 candidates from across the world applied to compete. Of those, only 69 candidates were chosen to compete in the prestigious weeklong competition in Switzerland.
After the semi-finals, only 20 dancers were selected to compete in the finals, held February 1. Other finalists from the U.S. included Tanner Bleck of the Next Generation Ballet at Patel Conservatory, Tampa, Florida, and Michael Ryan of the Houston Ballet Academy.
A story in the Moscow Times said that Adams began ballet lessons at age 5, and at 9 she joined a nearby studio led by Sergei Rayevsky, a graduate of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg. She then moved farther and farther away from home in order to develop her talent, studying in Toronto, New York City, and Monaco, before applying to the Bolshoi after winning a scholarship to study Russian and ballet at the school’s stateside summer intensive program.
In the spring, Adams will become one of the first African American ballerinas to finish her studies at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography (better known as the Bolshoi Ballet Academy), where she has faced “persistent discrimination” because of the color of her skin, the story stated.
Haruo Niyama of Japan won the coveted top prize. To see a full list of finalists and scholarship winners, visit http://www.prixdelausanne.org/press/Prize_Winners_2014Prixdelausanne_Laureats.pdf.
To see the Moscow Times story, visit http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/us-ballerina-faces-discrimination-at-bolshoi-academy/489887.html.
Jean Babilée, who gained instant stardom in French ballet as the violent chair-throwing youth in Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort (The Young Man and Death) in 1946, and who remained international dance’s great rebel, died January 30 in Paris, reported the New York Times. He was 90.
“Sensational” was a word critics applied liberally to Babilée’s dancing, including his first guest appearances in New York with Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) in 1951. His extraordinary technique, soaring leaps, and masculine power were matched by a panther-like pounce and a jarring poetic presence.
The dancer Erik Bruhn once said that he had been so stunned by Babilée’s power that for a time he thought he should stop dancing altogether, until he realized that he should not try to copy him; thus did Bruhn become ballet’s great danseur noble in Denmark and at Ballet Theatre. In 1979, Mikhail Baryshnikov went backstage and reportedly fell at Babilée’s feet after seeing him perform in Life, a duet created by Maurice Béjart.
Babilée was classically trained at the Paris Opera Ballet school and had perfect classical style. Yet as a member of Les Ballets des Champs-Élysées, founded by Petit in 1945, he was an experimental dancer, his career emerging from the creative ferment in French ballet after World War II and his roles coming out of his personal, impulsive way of moving.
Rejecting conventions in dance and life, Babilée occasionally quit performing to travel abroad on his motorcycle, into his 80s. He last appeared onstage in 2003. To see the full obit, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/arts/dance/jean-babilee-dies-at-90-ballets-acrobatic-star.html?_r=2.
Principal dancer at The Washington Ballet, Brooklyn Mack has recently made his debut in the leading male role of Albrecht in the classical ballet Giselle—no small feat for a young man from Elgin, South Carolina, whose first love was football.
Mack was featured on TheGrio.com’s 100 for 2014, an annual recognition of African Americans making a difference in the arts, health, activism, science and technology, business, education, media, sports, politics, and pop culture.
In 2012 he won gold at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, for his series of stunning presentations, which varied from the acrobatic to the sensitive. Now in his fifth year with TWB, he has also danced with other prominent companies internationally and nationally, including Latvian National Ballet and Orlando Ballet.
“Mack thrills audiences with his athletic performances, which are full of gravity-defying leaps and muscular leg extensions, while also touching the soul through the subtlety of his renditions,” TheGrio said. “His ability to inspire crowds while winning artistic merits makes Mack one of the outstanding dancers of our time. As an African American leading man in ballet gaining mainstream recognition for his talents, Brooklyn Mack is a rare phenomenon.”
TheGrio predicts that Mack will continue to exemplify excellence in dance while paving a way for more African American dancers to receive support in ballet. To see the full story, visit http://thegrio.com/2014/02/04/thegrios-100-brooklyn-mack-dancer-taking-the-lead-at-the-washington-ballet/.
George Chakiris, who played “Riff” on stage and “Bernardo” in the film version of West Side Story, will host a gala to benefit Miami City Ballet on February 14 that celebrates the company’s premiere of the ballet West Side Story Suite.
Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez personally invited Chakiris, 81, who now lives in Los Angeles where he designs and sells high-end custom-made jewelry. She primarily reached out to the Hollywood legend on behalf of her young dancers.
“I think they would adore meeting him,” Lopez wrote in an email to Arts Meme. She then admitted to herself being a “Bernardo” fan: “There is no question that I would be the first standing in line getting an autograph. He is my absolute favorite.”
Chakiris, who came of age in Long Beach, California, trained in ballet at Eugene Loring’s American School of Dance on Hollywood Boulevard. His foundation in clean ballet technique undoubtedly drove West Side Story creator and choreographer Jerome Robbins to invest so heavily in Chakiris, casting him first as “Riff” on the London stage production in 1959, and then as “Bernardo” in the 1961 movie.
“He will be treated as artistic royalty and only because that is how I view him,” Lopez said of Chakiris, who had a long career as a singer, dancer, and actor. “That is his place in this world and I will make sure all know it.”
To see the original story, visit http://artsmeme.com/2014/02/04/west-side-storys-george-chakiris-to-host-miami-city-ballet-gala/.
A new British TV series, Big Ballet, follows a troupe of curvy amateurs as they realize their dream of dancing Swan Lake on the big stage, says the Star.
The three-part show was inspired by instructor Wayne Sleep who, after making his debut as the shortest dancer ever to appear on the Royal Ballet stage, decided he wanted to unlock the world of ballet for a wider audience, by breaking one of the biggest taboos in ballet: size.
Ballet dancers are typically a UK size 6 to 8. The Big Ballet dancers range from a size 12 to 26.
The troupe of 16 women and two men includes an animal rescue league’s general manager, a telesales rep, an accountant, and an administrative officer. The series follows the dancers through the audition process to grueling training sessions with Sleep and prima ballerina Monica Loughman, and culminates in a performance of Swan Lake.
Stella White, 31, started ballet at age 5 but stopped when she was 16. At five feet nine inches tall, she felt she did not meet the required “ballet size”—something she hopes Big Ballet will stop other children from feeling. “Being able to take up ballet again has been amazing, and performing felt as natural as breathing,” she said. “I hope girls thinking about doing ballet, or thinking about quitting, are inspired by this show and not be put off by stereotypes.”
To see the full story, read http://www.thestar.co.uk/what-s-on/out-about/ballet-amateurs-set-to-realise-dancing-dreams-1-6414690.
Roxey Ballet Company has planned an “I Love NJ” dance and musical concert to celebrate Hunterdon County’s 300th anniversary and New Jersey’s 350th anniversary.
Broadway World said the concerts will take place at Canal Studio Theater in Lambertville, New Jersey February 7 to 16 and will fuse live poetry, song, and dance. The concert will feature 14 professional Roxey Ballet dancers who work and live in Hunterdon County, New Jersey; 10 pre-professional Mill Ballet School trainees; and five New Jersey choreographers.
Live music will be performed by Flemington natives Nalani and Sarina Bolton, and by the award-winning poet and songwriter, Richard Jarboe, of Stockton. Robert Sands, a four-time Emmy Award–winning composer from Hunterdon County will make additional musical contributions.
“We are proud to produce a concert that will honor Hunterdon County and New Jersey,” Roxey Ballet founder and artistic director Mark Roxey said.
“Our dancers will highlight history by performing to Richard’s songs and poems that were inspired by Lambertville’s James Marshalls, a gold pioneer, and by George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. Nalani and Sarina will perform original duets and lead interactive song sessions about life in the Garden State that the entire family will enjoy.”
Tickets are available at www.roxeyballet.org. For more information, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/new-jersey/article/Roxey-Ballet-Announces-I-LOVE-NJ-Concert-in-Celebration-of-NJs-350th-Anniversary-27-16-20140130.
Boston Ballet will climax its 50th-anniversary season with its first-ever performances at New York’s Lincoln Center, reported the Boston Globe.
Two programs will be offered in six performances over five days, June 25 to 29, at the David H. Koch Theater. Program 1 will comprise William Forsythe’s The Second Detail, a new work (still untitled) by former Paris Opera Ballet étoile José Carlos Martínez, and Alexander Ekman’s Cacti. Program 2 will include George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, Jorma Elo’s Plan to B, and Jirí Kylián’s Bella Figura.
It’s a contemporary group of works; only the Nijinsky and the Balanchine are more than 25 years old. Symphony in Three Movements will be particularly familiar to New York audiences; the company’s performances will invite direct comparison with those of Balanchine’s own New York City Ballet.
“This is one of the biggest historic things Boston Ballet has ever done,” artistic director Mikko Nissinen said of the tour. But he’s confident the company will be received as enthusiastically in New York as it was when it opened its 50th anniversary year last June in London. “I’m very proud with the way we do Symphony in Three Movements, and I’m very happy to take it to Balanchine’s home,” he said.
For tickets, visit www.davidhkochtheater.com. To read the full story, visit http://www.boston.com/culturedesk/2014/01/30/boston-ballet-will-conclude-anniversary-season-lincoln-center/yViqy8zkWIPD6Uu4acQY3K/story.html#sthash.lZuLxBaT.dpuf.
Royal New Zealand Ballet, now under the direction of former American Ballet Theatre star Ethan Stiefel, will present Giselle and other works in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Minneapolis, and New York as part of the company’s first tour to the United States in 21 years, reported LiveNews.com.
“I am so pleased that the company has been invited to perform in the U.S.,” Stiefel said. “I look forward to returning to my homeland as the artistic director of the RNZB and having the opportunity to remain connected with American audiences in this different capacity.”
The RNZB’s Giselle was produced in 2012 under Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, and was also adapted by New Zealand film director Toa Fraser into a feature film that recently screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival and at the 2013 Toronto and Vancouver international film festivals. American ballerina and RNZB principal guest artist Gillian Murphy will dance the lead in both L.A. and Santa Barbara.
Also included on the tour will be works by Christchurch-born choreographer Andrews Simmons; Benjamin Millepied’s 28 Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Javier de Frutos’ Banderillero, and the virtuoso pas de deux from Stiefel’s Bier Halle.
“In building the programming for America, I wanted to showcase the RNZB dancers’ immense creativity and diversity,” Stiefel said. The tour will conclude in New York, where Dunedin-based fashion designer Tamsin Cooper will join the tour to launch her clothing and accessory range to the U.S. market. To see the original story, visit http://livenews.co.nz/2014/01/30/royal-new-zealand-ballet-tours-us-first-time-in-21-years/.
To see a trailer of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Giselle film, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9AEZkXnjwY.
Ottavio de Rosa, an orchestra conductor who worked with New York City Ballet in the George Balanchine era and also was Miami City Ballet’s first ballet conductor, has died. De Rosa was 91.
His daughter-in-law said in the Wall Street Journal that de Rosa died Wednesday at a hospice after a long illness. He lived in Dunedin, Florida.
De Rosa conducted the orchestra at New York City Ballet for choreographer George Balanchine. When former NYCB star Edward Villella founded Miami City Ballet in 1986, de Rosa was his first choice for music director. De Rosa also held similar positions at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet.
De Rosa remained at Miami’s ballet until he retired in 2000. Praising de Rosa’s musicianship and sensitivity to the dancers on stage, Villella said Monday that de Rosa was “the delight of the whole company.”
Ballet executive Pamela Gardiner says de Rosa helped build the young company into a respected cultural institution. To see the original story, visit http://online.wsj.com/article/AP1aaa23fa89f14b15bbec8efd05e4b764.html.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura will retire from performing at the end of this season, capping a 17-year career with the company.
Nakamura joined PNB as a soloist in 1997 and was promoted to principal in 1998. Following her retirement, Nakamura will be joining the faculty of PNB School.
PNB artistic director Peter Boal said: “I remember many of us from the New York City Ballet peeking into the studios of the School of American Ballet many years ago to see the young Kaori Nakamura, the youngest winner of the Prix de Lausanne, who had selected SAB for further study. She was so very tiny and perfect; a rare gem, with impeccable technique and a fierce work ethic.
“Now, 25 years later, I am so honored to have worked with Kaori as she continues to ascend to new heights of artistry and excellence. She remains the consummate professional. Though we will miss her exquisite performances, I am thrilled to know that she will join our school faculty and bring her unique wisdom and experience to our students.”
A native of Gumma, Japan, Nakamura won first prize at the 14th Prix de Lausanne in 1986 and a bronze medal at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1988. A special tribute to Nakamura will be part of the “Season Encore Performance” set for June 8. Tickets go on sale to the general public on March 3 at www.PNB.org.
Another rising star has abruptly quit England’s Royal Ballet, while members of the corps de ballet called in union bosses this week to protest working conditions.
The Telegraph said Dawid Trzensimiech, marked out by critics as one of the company’s most promising soloists, resigned from the company on Thursday, telling friends he was unhappy at what he felt to be “a lack of care and coaching” at Covent Garden.
In addition, members of the corps de ballet appealed to their union after a relentless schedule of rehearsals left them feeling near breaking point. The union, Equity, held a meeting with management, and as a result the company is instituting a compulsory hour-long lunch break in order to give the dancers time to eat and rest.
A spokesman for the Royal Opera House said Christmas was traditionally a busy period, and the situation had been exacerbated by illness and injury among the ranks. Yet sources say the atmosphere is troubled. Trzensimiech had been touted as an eventual successor to Sergei Polunin, who shocked the world of dance when he abruptly left The Royal Ballet in 2012.
And Trzensimiech’s choice of the National Romanian Ballet—which he will join as a principal dancer—is significant. His new director in Bucharest will be Johan Kobborg, the former Royal Ballet star who was reduced to tears last year by the lack of recognition from his employers after 13 years as a principal dancer.
Kobborg’s on- and off-stage partner, Alina Cojocaru, followed him out the door and has since spoken publically about her unhappiness there. Tamara Rojo also left The Royal Ballet, and is now the artistic director of the rival English National Ballet.
To read the full story, visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/10597060/Royal-Ballet-faces-new-revolt-from-dancers-over-overwork.html.
Sarah Hay, an American member of the Semperoper Ballet in Dresden, Germany, won the part of Claire, a talented, emotionally troubled dancer from Pittsburgh who ends up in a New York City ballet company in Flesh and Bone, a new drama series produced by Starz.
The New York Times said the series starts shooting this spring and has the ballet world buzzing, especially since the cancellations of ABC Family’s Bunheads, and, more recently, Breaking Pointe, the CW reality show about Ballet West.
Creator and writer Moira Walley-Beckett, a producer and writer for Breaking Bad and a former dancer herself, said that the series is a dark drama that happens to be set in the ballet world.
“It’s the journey of an artist and the journey of finding her value as a woman,” she said.
Supporting roles are filled by Irina Dvorovenko as the prima ballerina Kira, and Sascha Radetsky as Ross, Kira’s ballet partner and former lover. Both have ties to American Ballet Theatre and acting experience: Dvorovenko, who retired from the company last year, dazzled audiences with her comic timing in the Encores! production of On Your Toes, and Radetsky, a soloist with the company, starred in the 2000 film Center Stage. Ethan Stiefel, his co-star in that film, is the show’s consultant and choreographer.
Other cast members include Emily Tyra, who plays a feisty dancer in the corps de ballet, and Raychel Diane Weiner as an ambitious, fearless demi-soloist. Walley-Beckett and the show’s producers are striving for authenticity; the series will be shot in New York City and called for dancers who can act. “I want to show the art the way the art is,” she said. “I want us to be living and breathing and sweating with those dancers.”
To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/dresden-ballet-dancer-wins-lead-role-in-new-starz-series/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0.
Dallas native Dylis Croman, currently appearing in the Broadway production of Chicago, will be teaching free musical theater, ballet, and contemporary classes as guest artist for Dance Planet 18, a community-wide, weekend dance festival set for April 12 and 13 in Dallas, Texas.
Croman danced with FeldBallets/NY (now Ballet Tech Company), served as assistant to Ann Reinking, and performed in Broadway shows such as Sweet Charity, Fosse, and Oklahoma!
Croman trained in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with Dana Davis Bailey, Dian Clough West, and TuzerBallet. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts.
In addition to Croman’s classes, Dance Planet 18 will feature 30 free classes in many styles from samba to swing to circus silks, African to Middle Eastern. Two Performance Showcases will feature more than 80 dance troupes and 1,000 performers from the greater North Texas region.
Presented by the Dance Council of North Texas, Dance Planet is America’s largest free dance festival and is appropriate for all ages. Schedules will be posted online at www.thedancecouncil.org.
Ballet in Cleveland, a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting extraordinary ballet performances and education with the best professional ballet companies and dancers from across the nation, will hold its first gala fundraising event February 28.
WhatsNewInBusiness.com reported that doors will open at 6pm for the ballet-inspired evening taking place at the Tudor Arms Hotel, 10660 Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland.
Proceeds from the gala will benefit scholarships for young dancers in Northeast Ohio to attend master ballet classes with world-class instructors, presented by Ballet in Cleveland. The fundraiser will also enable the organization to present professional ballet productions in Cleveland, including a world premiere performance to be produced and danced by ballerina Ashley Bouder—and featuring other New York City Ballet principal dancers in works by Balanchine, as well as a new ballet choreographed by up-and-coming choreographer Joshua Beamish—planned for October.
The gala will include dinner, dancing, and performances by Ballet Le Reve as well as nationally recognized professional ballet stars Allison DeBona, Rex Tilton, and Christopher Ruud of Ballet West and the television series Breaking Pointe.
Tickets are $100 per person and available online at www.balletincleveland.org/gala. To see the original story, visit http://www.international.to/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29990:ballet-in-cleveland-announces-first-annual-gala-event-feb-28&catid=323:prlog&Itemid=479.
Ten dancers will receive full scholarships to the Joffrey Academy of Dance, preparing them for careers as professional dancers, plus prime performance opportunities, as members of the newly established Joffrey Studio Company set to begin in the 2014–2015 season.
A release from The Joffrey Ballet stated that the program will enable the academy to recruit potential students from around the globe and continue to strengthen Joffrey’s reputation.
The selected participants will train alongside dancers in the academy’s Trainee Program, participate in daily classes, and have the opportunity to be selected to perform with the main company at the Auditorium Theatre, as well as perform in the academy’s performance series at Joffrey Tower and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and at additional festival opportunities.
Selection for the Joffrey Studio Company is by audition only. Students may be asked to join the Trainee Program in the academy for one to two years prior to being selected for the Joffrey Studio Company, or may be asked to join the Joffrey Studio Company from an academy audition.
For more information, visit http://joffrey.org/joffreyacademy.
Ballet dancers’ bone health is under investigation in an attempt to understand the long-associated risk of bone stress injury—responsible for shattering the careers of many talented performers.
The study, by ex-professional ballet dancer Penelope Blanco of Australia’s Edith Cowan University’s School of Exercise and Health Sciences (and reported in Science Network), assessed bone health in local ballet dancers across age and performance levels.
“Previous studies have been done on the relationship between bone health and injury occurrence, however, little research has investigated the effect of bone health in ballet dancers across age and performance level,” Blanco says, adding that young ballet dancers can eat very little to stay thin, overtrain, suffer decreased hormone levels and amenorrhea, and risk low bone density, stress fractures, and osteoporosis.
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) classical-dance lecturer Andries Weidemann shares similar concerns. He says the skills required of dancers demands that they train intensely from a very young age, across the growth spectrum, into adulthood.
“Many dancers’ careers are curtailed by injuries that involve bones and since bone density [or lack thereof] seems to be a contributing factor, the scientific exploration and possible preventative action is of immense interest to dance teachers and practitioners,” Weidemann says.
The cross-sectional study involved a comparison between full-time ballet students, university students, and professional dancers, assessing their bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) values. Results found a positive correlation between a ballet dancer’s strength values, or isometric peak force (IPF), and their BMC and BMD scores and rate of force development.
American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland will be joining elite athletes such as world champion downhill skier Lindsey Vonn and professional tennis player Sloane Stephens as a representative of sports clothing brand Under Armour.
Broadway World says Copeland, as part of a multi-year partnership, will be featured in Under Armour’s largest marketing campaign to date for its women’s brand in 2014.
“Misty Copeland is a game changer,” said Leanne Fremar, Under Armour, SVP and executive creative director/Under Armour women’s. “Misty is changing the world’s view of what it means to be a world-class ballerina. She brings a modern athleticism to a very traditional art form and pushes the boundaries of the status-quo definition of the word ‘athlete.’ ”
“Joining the Under Armour family feels like a natural fit, since they have always championed hard work and strong women,” says Copeland, who took her first ballet class at age 13 at a Boys’ and Girls’ Club and went on to become the first African American female soloist at ABT in 20 years. “Under Armour will be a great partner to help me inspire women as they find the will to pursue their goals.”
To see the original story, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwdance/article/Under-Armour-Signs-American-Ballet-Theatres-Misty-Copeland-20140116.
Iain Webb, the artistic director of the Sarasota Ballet, has signed a contract extending his appointment for 10 more years, it was reported in the New York Times’ ArtsBeat.
Webb, a former dancer with The Royal Ballet, was first appointed to the position in 2007 on a four-year contract. The six-year contract he was offered and signed in 2011 was a mark of the board of director’s approval of the direction he had taken the company, revamping the repertory and the roster and gaining the small Florida troupe an international reputation. The current contract is a further vote of confidence, as well as a move to hold onto a director who has helped pull the institution out of debt and into profit, introduced nearly 100 ballets, and increased ticket sales by a factor of four.
The company also announced that it had extended the contracts of two key members of Webb’s team: Mary Anne Servian, a former mayor of Sarasota, as managing director; and Margaret Barbieri, Webb’s wife and a former star of The Royal Ballet, as assistant artistic director.
Much of the company’s recent success can be seen to derive from its focus on the ballets of Frederick Ashton, The Royal Ballet’s founding choreographer. The Sarasota Ballet performs more Ashton works than any other American troupe, and the New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay has called the company “America’s foremost exponent of Ashton ballets.” This April, it will honor the 25th anniversary of the choreographer’s death by presenting no fewer than 11 Ashton ballets, several of them extremely rare.
To see the original story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/sarasota-ballet-signs-artistic-director-to-10-year-contract/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company will make its inaugural appearance at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center in New York City with four performances February 7 to 9.
In 1935, what became 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center provided a home to the fledgling American modern dance movement. In the decades that followed, every great American dancer and choreographer—visionaries including Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Robert Joffrey and Donald McKayle—spent time at 92Y.
The ABT Studio Company is comprised of 14 dancers-in-training ages 16 to 20 who gain performance experience through residencies, cultural exchanges, and local performances. The works scheduled to be performed include a world premiere choreographed by Larry Keigwin, Martine van Hamel’s Trio a Deux, excerpts from Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Great Galloping Gottschalk, Antony Tudor’s Continuo, and the pas de sept from Raymonda.
Tickets, priced at $25, are available at www.92y.org/dance. The 92nd Street Y is located at 1395 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
The English National Ballet School has been accused of putting pressure on its students to lose weight in a controversial message on Facebook, reported the London Evening Standard.
It comes despite widespread industry concern about the issue of eating disorders among dancers.
A call for students, who can be as young as 16, to “work off” Christmas calories appeared on the school’s Facebook page as they returned to train at its base in Chelsea after the break.
Former National Ballet of Canada dancer Kathleen Rea, author of The Healing Dance, a book documenting her near-fatal struggle with bulimia, said it was “exactly comments like this that led me to hate my body.”
She said: “Scrutiny of weight and expectations for dancers to be unnaturally thin are prevalent in the ballet world. I think the only logical conclusion a student would have reading the post is that they need to lose weight. Whether it was intentional or not, it is shocking that the ENBS would pressure their students to lose weight in such a public way.”
Delia Barker, co-director of the school, said the post had been removed from the internet. “Our intention was certainly not to imply that the students’ weight should be a concern after the Christmas break, but can see how the comment could be interpreted in a different context. We remain committed to our . . . students’ health and well-being.”
Students from Harvard Business School, who spent 10 days in Johannesburg studying the Joburg Ballet, presented their ideas to its leaders this week, reported Times Live.
The visit’s main focus was to develop ways to maximize marketing strategies and broaden revenue possibilities by developing new consumer-focused products. The presentation forms part of the MBA students’ Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development program, during which they develop strategies for real-world organizations as part of their studies.
This is the second consecutive year the school has collaborated with the Joburg Ballet. Lindsay McDonald, Joburg Ballet marketing manager, said last year’s visit provided fresh and innovative strategies for the Joburg Ballet, resulting in positive outcomes and an increase in the company’s global business knowledge, skills, and sustainability.
“Their impact from last year was great. We employed some of their tactics, like interval performances, to great success,” said McDonald.
Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile said: “My six MBA students on the Joburg Ballet team have had an unforgettable educational experience. By working with the ballet’s leaders, they have learned about the aspirations driving this unique cultural institution, as well as the challenges it faces.”
To see the full story, visit http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/01/13/harvard-meets-ballet.
By David Arce
To passively stretch the hamstrings, I give a parallel fourth-position hamstring stretch at the beginning of class. While holding onto the barre with one hand, and with the other arm in fifth, students bend forward from the hip. While pliéing on the back leg, they pull the front foot’s toes back with their hand. Then they return to upright and cambré back. Repeat on the other side.
Giving students free time and music to stretch uninterrupted after barre exercises allows them to commit their personal corrections to memory, gives them time to “work out their kinks,” and lets them start center rested and ready. A few minutes are all it takes, and this short break is helpful to and much appreciated by all.
Crossing the Color Line
I used to judge local scholarship pageants. It was fun, and I liked that the girls got a moment in the spotlight and some money for their educations. But suddenly my services were no longer needed, and I think I know why.
One particularly long Sunday, after endless rounds of interviews, a tedious sequestered “lunch,” and an evening competition featuring 20 talent presentations (most of which I winced through), we judges were yawning and waiting to give our final critiques when one tottering old gentleman turned to our chaperone and asked, “Is she our city’s first black winner?”
The chaperone started to say, “Well, maybe Cape Verdean?” when I spoke up. Sharply. “What does it matter?” The old man looked at me, dismissed me, and repeated his question. Stubborn and tired past politeness, I said, “She was radiant. That’s all that matters.” Mine was a sole voice in a cold room.
After that, my phone stopped ringing. I remembered that awkward moment when American Ballet Theatre announced Project Plié, a serious effort to diversify its traditionally white ranks (see FYI). Directors of major ballet companies have spouted inclusionary statements for years—“Oh, we’d love to hire minorities, but no one qualified ever applies”—but ABT is no longer content to twiddle its thumbs while waiting for the next Misty Copeland to walk through the door.
The company plans to find and train teachers to bring ABT-quality professional training to kids in previously ignored communities, hand out full scholarships to minority dancers, and get the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to make ballet classes a priority.
Publically, ABT is saying the initiative is about “helping the classical ballet profession better reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our country’s population.” But policymakers at ABT and throughout the ballet world must be stinging from a rash of recent articles questioning ballet’s invisible color line, panicking over declining ticket sales, and marveling at the fame and love showered on “breakthrough” ballerinas like Copeland and First Position star Michaela DePrince.
Bravo to ABT! May its effort to change stereotypical minds be more successful than mine. I’m looking forward to a day when the words “the first black soloist (or pageant queen, or whatever)” truly don’t matter anymore. —Karen White, Associate Editor
The Cost of Accountability
There is a trend now to make colleges more “accountable,” to make sure they offer “good value” by ranking them based in large part on employment rates and starting salaries of graduates. In this era of crippling college debt, these are legitimate concerns.
But it saddens me to think about a college’s “success” being measured primarily by how much money its graduates make and how quickly they find employment. Obviously, especially in this economy, that’s an important consideration. But there are educational outcomes that can’t be quantified on a financial scale, or even quantified at all. What about critical thinking, love of learning, a broad worldview? Don’t we want the children we raise and those we teach to want to achieve more than merely financial security?
Think about your students. No matter how good a teacher you are, not many of them will end up gainfully employed as dancers. But that’s not the point. As dance teachers, you’re teaching your students to listen to music and to their bodies, apply discipline to achieve results, work with others, find joy in expression.
Just like a dance education isn’t going to guarantee a position in a major dance company, no college education is going to guarantee a well-paying job. The job outcome is not the only point.
Let’s make college affordable, absolutely. And let’s make sure all colleges offer a quality education. But let’s think carefully about what that means. A dance education offers students the chance to be dancers, whether or not they ever make money doing it. And college offers students the chance to be thinkers, something they’ll always be, no matter how much they earn.
Tightening standards is fine, but let’s make sure doing so doesn’t strangle our kids. —Lisa Okuhn, Associate Editor